Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees make up 23 of the 30 COVID-19 cases reported in the Nye County Detention Center this week, an ICE spokesperson has confirmed.
The cluster means the jail - which houses county inmates and immigration detainees - has more cases among inmates than have been reported in the entire state prison system.
Frustrated community members and immigrant rights organizations that warned about the spread of the virus among inmates say the outbreak was preventable and want to see more changes made to mitigate the situation.
“We warned of this moment locally, alongside our national allies calling to #FreeThemAll,” said the Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center in a statement shared with The Nevada Independent Thursday night. “The COVID-19 crisis in the Nye County Detention center is the result of blatant disregard for human life and general health and safety precautions.”
Community members and organizations, including the workers center, have called for the release of ICE detainees from detention centers, but ICE spokesperson Paige Hughes did not say whether the federal agency is considering that.
“ICE makes custody determinations every day on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with U.S. law and Department of Homeland Security policy, considering the merits and factors of each case while adhering to current agency priorities, guidelines and legal mandates,” Hughes wrote in an email to The Nevada Independent.
Nye County entered into a 287(g) program with ICE last year, an agreement that fosters collaboration between the federal agency and state and local law enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants. The program also allows local law enforcement officers to perform limited immigration enforcement functions, typically reserved for federal officers.
The agreement with the county is a jail enforcement model, which allows deputized officers to inquire about citizenship when someone is arrested on state or local charges and may place detainers on people suspected to be subject to removal, according to the American Immigration Council.
The program has been in the sights of many human and immigrants rights groups like the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. The program was terminated for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department by Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo in October last year.
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